Have you ever had somewhere to be but knew that no matter how fast you drove, walked, or ran, you were going to arrive late? A decision presents itself. Do you text the person you are seeing to tell them that you are going to be late? At what point do you need to do that? When expecting a five minute delay, or ten, or twenty?
ETA is a neat little application that uses your location and a pre-set message to make your apologies for you as and when they are needed. Having to text someone to say you will be late only adds time to your already prolonged journey. No matter how good you may think you are at it, texting whilst walking does slow you down. ETA allows you to focus on the walking, and forget about having to need to send an apology message.
For such a small application, ETA has many separate features to offer its users. To start, rather than just an “I’m Late” message, the application can also send notifications of when you are leaving or running ahead of schedule, or about your general location.
The ‘Just Leaving’ text the other person will receive looks something like “Just leaving Wivenhoe. My ETA is 40 minutes (ETA App)”. The other text notifications are structured in a similar way: simple and to the point.
ETA is adjustable on the move, so if you move ahead or further behind schedule, your adjusted time can be taken into account. If the application decides you are going to arrive notably early, a message can be sent to tell the other person. If you like, you can send a text to someone immediately.
The screenshot on the left is ETA's main menu. On the right is a display of the configurable messages that ETA can send.
How It Works
By accessing your phone’s location, either by coarse network positioning or a precise GPS pinpoint, ETA can keep tabs on your rate of travel towards a ZIP or post code. Simple maths lets it work out whether you are likely to be late, early, or right on time.
The application is clever enough to be patient with the user and real-world events, so if you drive slowly for a few minutes while stuck in traffic and then speed up again, a text will not have been sent. You would have to be stuck in traffic for quite some time before ETA decided that you would be unavoidably late.
Why It’s Useful
A lot of meeting situations are planned so that if the other person is left waiting too long, they’ll move elsewhere -so if you’re late, you’ve then got to spend more time finding them when you do arrive. To stop them moving away, ETA sends texts to reaffirm that you are on your way, and are only delayed by however long. If the delay is for a considerable amount of time then the person you are meeting can find some way to preoccupy themselves until you arrive, and their frustration at not knowing when you are going to arrive is eliminated.
Likewise, if you are late meeting a group, you can automatically send them the information they need to decide whether to move on without you or hang around a bit longer.
This is a screenshot of ETA predicting the route to a great chip shop in the next town. A little optimistic I must say, even for a car.
Something I quickly realised about this application (and others like it): you would want to avoid using it too often. If people get texts ending in “(ETA App)” regularly then they will assume that you were either planning on being late, or are a person who cannot be punctual or manage their time efficiently. Even if it seems nifty, modern, and high tech, it makes you look bad in the long run. That is the total opposite of what this app is supposed to do. I can’t think of any way around this problem either. The only solution is to be on time, and use this app rarely.
I also felt that the whole interface could do with a spruce up. The application works soundly, so perhaps the process of setting it up could be a little more attractive.
This application should be used rarely, like in those situations when you realise you are going to be late yet still have a few moments to set up an application – perhaps when heading to a meeting, going to see a friend, or travelling a long distance. I doubt it would be an app you’d use every single day, since it makes the person sending the texts look unable to keep time.
For a rating, I award ETA 7/10. There is definitely a niche available for applications like this, which ETA sits in very well. However its interface still needs a little work before it reaches a level where everyone would feel comfortable using it.